John Steinbeck published The Grapes of Wrath in response to the Great Depression. Steinbeck’s intentions were to publicize the movements of a fictional family affected by the Dust Bowl that was forced to move from their homestead. Also a purpose of Steinbeck’s was to criticize the hard realities of a dichotomized American society. The Great Depression was brought about through various radical economic practices and greatly affected the common man of America. Although all Americans were faced with the same fiscal disparity, a small minority began to exploit those in distress.
Along the trek westward from Oklahoma, the Joad family met a grand multitude of adversity. However, this adversity was counteracted with a significant amount of endurance exhibited by the Joads and by generalized citizens of America. A magnanimous amount of motivation for the tenant farmers was generally found in the self, in an individualistic manner. As “gentle (winds) followed the rain clouds,” furthering the magnitude of the dust storms, the survival of the farmers and their families soon became doubtful.
The men would sit in “the doorways of their houses; their hands were busy with sticks and little rocks… (as they) sat still–thinking–figuring. ” The adversity represented by the weather was hindered by the idea that man could triumph over nature–over the machine–and retain a sense of self-identity. Another sense of the attempt to retain a moralistic self-identity and persevere through the obstacles present was the reaction had by the tenant farmers when forced to move off their land.
Standing in conflict with “the cat,”–the destroyer of lands–or the tractor, the farmers began to correlate their problems with one another. Although conjuring up incoherent manifestations of violence to counteract the machine, several grand ideas of enduring nature were developed. Among which existed the idea of traveling west to California, despite the closure of the frontier.
The tenant farmers continued to endure by self-motivation, “we got to figure… there’s some way to stop this… ‘s not like lightning or earthquakes… we’ve got a thing made by men, and by God that’s something we can change. ” The idea of traveling west to evade the economic conundrums of Oklahoma was patent in the Joad family. Upon the release of Tom Joad from prison (who had been sentenced to seven years for manslaughter, but received parole), the family reunited and began the trek west. Al, brother to Tom, asked his mother if she were worried about the possible outcomes of the trip, and what could take place on the road.
To this she responded with a religious connotation, evidence of endurance laced with religion as a sign of hope, “You’ll be glad a that preacher `fore we’re through… that preacher’ll help us… ” Not only did Americans respond to the Great Depression with signs of individual endurance, a stronger focus on religion was effected to bring optimism. Motivation also came from fellow farmers and “migrant men” affected by the recession. Tom, with the family car stopped at a gas station, met an attendant that had but only one eye.
The one-eyed attendant began to complain of the migrants that begged for gas and of those that ran rampant without, and placed the blame on his eye. Tom responded that the only way to immunize such a condition was for the individual to take an action against it. Also, upon hearing masochist comments from Al concerning the gas station attendant, Tom castigated Al by saying, “Wanta be a hell of a guy all the time… but, goddamnit, Al, don’ keep ya guard up when nobody ain’t sparrin’ with ya… ” The idea of endurance was catalyzed by various actions among tenant farmers.
Were it constructive criticism aimed at inspiration or castratory remarks aimed at a fellow cohort, they served to further humanity through the intermingling of society. Affluent landowners in California also attempted to cripple the migrant exodus. This included the mistreatment of migrant men and the repression and discrimination against such. This repression led to bitter resentment towards the oligopoly of landowners that controlled the symbolic vindication of the migrant men. Natural resources began to dwindle, such as the spoiling of wine in vineyards.
These predicaments presented to the migrant men served a dual purpose–not only did they superficially benefit the oligopoly, it built up resentment among the farmers. “In the souls of the people, the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage. ” The growing resentment was a profound example of the growing endurance among American farmers during the Great Depression. The most significant exhibition of endurance from the Joad family came in the actions of Tom Joad.
Jim Casy, a former preacher that accompanied the Joads on their exodus, was arrested for attacking a police officer during a labor riot (in which Joad was the actual guilty party). However, Joad later discovered Casy working to organize the migrant workers in a tent located at a peach farm. Casy explained to Joad several unfair labor practices in effect at the camp. During this meeting, two chauvinistic policemen accused Casy of being a “communist” and kill Casy with the collision of a pick-ax to his head.
Joad is greatly affected by this incident and this serves as the foundation of his final endurance. Attempting to provide a sense of hope for the migrant workers, Joad departs from his family to resume Casy’s job of organizing the farmers, saying “I’ll be ever’where–wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there… an’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build–why, I”ll be there. “
The exploitation of “Okies” continued but was haltered by unions and organizations such as those Tom Joad planned to lead. Being faced with several accounts of adversity coming not only from the national and eventually global economic depression, the farmers of America had only one chance to subsist, and that was to maintain a sense of endurance. This sense was evident in several actions of the Joad family during their trek to California and the actions taken by general farmers of America as their “grapes of wrath (began) … growing heavy for the vintage. “